SPRI Home About SPRI

Ethylene dichloride

1,2-dichloroethane, ethylene dichloride, dutch oil or dutch liquid

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
1,000 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Water
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Waste Water
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Land
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
1,2-dichloroethane is a clear, colourless, sweet-smelling liquid which easily evaporates to vapour. It mixes with water only very slightly and is highly flammable. 1,2-dichloroethane is part of the group of chemicals known as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What is it used for?
The main use of 1,2-dichloroethane is to produce chemicals for the manufacture of widely used PVC plastics. It is also used to produce other chemicals, in solvents and as a fumigant in food, upholstery and carpets. In the past 1,2-dichloroethane was also used in domestic cleaning solutions, in paint removers and as a lead scavenger in leaded petrol.
Where does it come from?
Releases of 1,2-dichloroethane occur during its production and use in industry. In the past, fairly significant amounts were released from leaded petrol and from its other domestic uses. There are thought to be no natural sources of 1,2-dichloroethane to the environment.
How might it affect the environment?
At normal environmental concentrations 1,2-dichloroethane is unlikely to cause harm to the environment. However, large spills can harm wildlife - and because it does not become bound to soils or sediments it can accumulate in water bodies and persist for years. As a VOC, it can be involved in reactions with other air pollutants to produce ground level ozone which can damage crops. 1,2-dichloroethane emissions are unlikely to have any environmental effects at a global level
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Exposure to levels of 1,2-dichloroethane typically found in the environment is unlikely to have severely adverse effects on health. Higher levels (resulting from an accidental release or in occupational settings) are however toxic and may cause cancer. Long-term exposure could damage the central nervous system, liver, kidneys and lungs and irritate the eyes and respiratory system. Inhalation of ground level ozone (in the formation of which 1,2-dichloroethane is involved) can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
In the UK (including Scotland) 1,2-dichloroethane is controlled through regulations concerned with releases of dangerous substances to surface waters (SI 1997/2560); in the food and environmental protection act (FEPA 1985); and the control of pesticides (COPR 1986). European Directives controlling releases of 1,2-dichloroethane include those concerned with the marketing and use of certain substances (79/117/EEC); pollution of the aquatic environment (76/464); control of solvents; and it is listed as a "priority substance" under the proposed water framework directive. At an international level, 1,2-dichloroethane is listed as a candidate substance for inclusion under the OSPAR and Helsinki conventions - concerned with the protection of the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic and the Baltic sea respectively. As a VOC, it is also regulated under the UNECE convention on long range transboundary air pollution and the Basel convention on the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes.